> MOZART Sonatas Zacharias [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata in C major, K310
Sonata in A major, K331
Sonata in F major, K332

Christian Zacharias (piano)
Rec January 1985 (K330), October 1958 (K331), July 1984 (K332), Historischer Reitstadt, Neumarkt
EMI Classics 5 74983-2 (64.25) superbudget




These three sonatas date from the early years of the 1780s, soon after he had settled in Vienna, a time when Mozart was particularly conscious of his pianistic virtuosity, having decided to spread his wings beyond the confines of Salzburg. One result of these preoccupations is the distinctive personality accorded to each composition, and this is one of the challenges which every pianist has to consider.

Christian Zacharias recorded these sonatas in 1984 and 1985, and it needs be said straight away that the EMI engineers responded to the project with some exceptionally fine piano sound. The instrument is not a period fortepiano but rather a modern grand, thought he accompanying documentation does not give us the exact details. Nor does it give us a lot else, beyond perpetuating the misleading myth that Mozart was buried in a pauper's grave.

Zacharias has the great merit of tightly focused rhythmic control, which stands him in good stead in the outer movements of the C major Sonata, K330, for example. Likewise his phrasing of slow movements can be sensitive, and the Andante cantabile of this same Sonata makes the whole piece the most successful of these three performances. The F major work, K332, also gains from some nicely judged tempi and clearly articulated accenting.

What is less successful here is the best known of the three sonatas, and the most unusual of them. The A major Sonata, K331, begins with an extended theme-and-variations movement which sets a real challenge of concentration, if the ideal of unity combining with variety is to be achieved. Zacharias does not really sustain the tensions across the whole span of this special movement, though things do improve in the Minuet which follows. What is most problematic of all, however, is the famous 'Turkish Rondo' finale, in which the rhythmic accents are emphasised with additional and undue percussive effects. Again one looks in vain for documentary justification of this extravagance; so without it, this reviewer feels inclined to describe it as ill-judged, and a lapse of taste.

Terry Barfoot


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